If It's Fall, The Midwest is Watching Football and Drinking Beer

It's fall and it's the Midwest. That means we're watching, no, not just watching --- we're living, breathing, and hanging on to every down of football here. And with every football game there's a beer, or two, or more enjoyed. The two are as inseparable as Saturday and Sunday, or even baseball and Ballantine, if you grew up on the East Coast.

So, when editor Tony Forder talked to me about a feature on the Great Lakes for ASN's next edition, the topic was easy to choose --- a tour of places to drink great beer and watch football.

Come along for a quick tour.  Even better, come on down!  We'd love to have you visit, and sample our great beer.

Let's start in the place where I fell in love with football, South Bend, the home of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. The town has changed in more ways than I can describe in the 30+ years since then. What hasn't changed is the locals' love of football and beer.

When I was a freshman at N.D., Ara Parseighan was the football coach, we won a national championship the year before, and there was this curious little house right outside the football stadium known as "Senior Bar."

Sadly all of those things are gone.

There is no Senior Bar now. But just a few feet away stands a new structure, the Legends of Notre Dame, which is a campus alehouse pub and restaurant. It boasts 24 tap lines featuring a lineup of extraordinary ales. Now alumni can quaff microbrew. Quite a change from the 5/$1 plastic cups of macrobrew we swilled as starving students.

Not far from campus is the Mishawaka Brewing Company.  The Four Horsemen Irish Red Ale is the top seller and a GABF medal winner. There are normally seven house beers and a seasonal on tap.

One of my favorite trips as a student was to Chicago.  It's stayed a favorite over the years.  Whether Da Bears or the Northwestern Wildcats are playing, it's always a great time in the Windy City.  There are plenty of good places to toss a few down in between the once dry town of Evanston and the brisk lakefront air in Soldier Field.

No trip to Chicago is complete without a visit to Goose Island Beer Company. There are two locations, Clybourn and Wrigleyville, which are both easily accessible using public transportation. Good beer, good people, good atmosphere. Need I say more?

Chicago has no shortage of good ale houses. The Map Room has been wowing people with their incredible selection of draft, cask, and bottled beers for years. With 26 beers on tap, you will find something to tickle your palette.  The Clark Street Ale House downtown is also a popular place.  They have a good selection of regional microbrews, many of which change seasonally.

A trip to Wisconsin requires you to do three things: attend a football game, drink beer, and eat brats — preferably at a tailgate. When I think of die-hard football fans, this image comes to mind: bare-chested cheeseheads sitting in Lambeau Field in Green Bay cheering on the Packers in minus ten degree weather.

I can't help you get Packer tickets. They're some of the most coveted things around, but you can find good beer in town. Titletown Brewing at the old Dousman Street Depot serves some fine brews --- with eight house beers normally on tap. The building is a converted train station which is included in the National Register of Historic Places. One of their regulars is Canadero Gold, a tribute to Hall of Famer Tony Canadero.

You might find tickets in Madison a little easier to come by for a University of Wisconsin home game.  Fair warning though, this is coach Barry Alvarez's last season and if the Badgers are looking good, expect to pay a premium.

Madison is home to three brewpubs, all of which are located close to the U-W campus and State Capitol area: Great Dame Pub and Brewery, Angelic Brewing Co., and, J.T. Whitney's Pub and Brewery. They're all comfortable places to quaff, and eat, or cry in your beer if your team loses.

And don't leave Wisconsin without having some of the fine beers from New Glarus Brewing. The Belgian Red Ale is sheer pleasure in a glass, especially if you love kriek. One sip takes me straight back to A La Becasse in Brussels. I can't buy it locally, so I always take some home.

Our next stop is Minneapolis.  I thought of saying it was just too cold to go there.  Only joking!  The unwavering friendliness and hospitality of Minnesotans keeps me coming back. It's amazing what a good brew can do for your mood too.

I always head straight for the Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery where the seasonals are always worth the trip. They won three well deserved silver medals at the 2004 GABF.

If you're looking for a good beer bar in Minneapolis, stop in at Williams Uptown Pub and Peanut Bar.  It's a real bar: two floors with no windows, darts, free peanuts and popcorn and, best of all, 70 beers on draft, and 300 bottled beers on the menu.

Heading north out of the Twin Cities, Barley John's Brew Pub in New Brighton is attracting lots of attention these days.  The house beers are a solid lineup and the guest taps include a collection from Paulaner in Germany.  Try their Wild Brunette, made with Minnesota wild rice.

On to Ohio for a visit to Cincinnati. No, I'm not snubbing Buckeye fans. It's just that the Bearcats have been such spoilers in recent years that they can't be ignored. And Bengal fans are quick to point out that this might be their year. Besides, it's Oktoberfest. And when it's Oktoberfest, you follow the beer, especially to a city with a large German population.

Downtown Cincinnati becomes a block party as 500,000 people gather to hear music, eat and drink. Did I mention the world's largest chicken dance? Make sure you hop the bus, cross the river, and visit the Hofbräuhaus. It's the real deal straight from Munich -- everything from the beer to the maypole in the beer garden.

Time to come home — for me, that's Ann Arbor and Michigan Stadium or, as Keith Jackson has been known to call it, the Big House. It's easy to find on Saturday if you're from out of town. Just follow the traffic. With 107,501 people converging on a single location, it's hard to get anywhere else.

For years my pre-game ritual has included a stop at Fraser's Pub. It the kind of place where the waitstaff has your favorite brew waiting at your favorite table when you sit down.  Fans from opposing teams frequently stop by, and they fit right in.

Post-game, there are plenty of places to celebrate. Leopold Brothers Brewery, an eco-friendly lager house, recently added a distillery to its operation. The tap room is reminiscent of a German beer hall with a small outside beer garden.

A few blocks further north you'll find two brewpubs: Grizzly Peak, that has recently announced it is expanding next door into the old Del Rio, a landmark for alumni; and, Arbor Brewing, which has recently also begun making a wonderful collection of Belgian beers.

So come to the Midwest for the football, and for the beer. Neither will disappoint.